Oh the Things We Have Seen: First Impressions of ABC's Pan Am

Pan Am preview

Just after fall schedules are determined at networks' upfront presentations in late May, major networks send the pilots of their new programs to the media. These previews are not for in-depth review, because many pilots are retooled, recast, and reshot before they officially debut, and the final product might be much different. But that doesn't mean we can't share some basic ideas of what to expect!

The Show: Pan Am on ABC which will air Sundays at 10pm beginning September 25. The series has been picked up by BBC2 for broadcast in the UK.

The Cast: Christina Ricci, Kelli Garner, Mike Vogel (who replaces Jonah Lotan), Michael Mosley, Karine Vanasse, Margo Robbie, Annabelle Wallis

ABC's official logline: "Passion, jealousy and espionage... They do it all—and they do it at 30,000 feet. The style of the 1960s, the energy and excitement of the Jet Age and a drama full of sexy entanglements deliciously mesh in this thrilling and highly-original new series."

Early Intel: It would be foolish to think the genesis of Pan Am wasn't influenced by the critical success and buzz of AMC's Mad Men. But will a '60s period piece fly on network television? Not if it puts up the same ratings as Mad Men. It's a risky move for ABC to latch on to a trend that only barely works on cable, but at least Pan Am looks better than NBC's The Playboy Club.

First Thoughts: Wow, that was a pretty show. I have no idea what it's about, but at least it looked good.

What the series has going for it: For whatever reason, we're all intrigued with the Jet Age: The stewardesses in their pressedm conservative-yet-sexy uniforms, handsome pilots flying iron birds around the globe, and commercial jets opening up the skies during the height of the Cold War. Pan Am has all this, and it looks great doing it. Michael Mosley is entertaining as an amorous, jocular co-pilot. And no matter what your sexual appetite, there are plenty of hotties to put your tray in the upright position, if you know what I'm sayin'. But then again, everyone looks good in a '60s-era uniform.

Room for Improvement: Pan Am's pilot suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It's a show about romance in an age of wonder, right? Sort of. Amidst the MANY—seriously, there are tons—stories about spurned love and unwanted marriage, there's a major plotline involving espionage, and it makes the rest of the characters seem relatively unimportant. Who is going to care that one cute stewardess can't find love when there's another cute stewardess who's working to stop Fidel Castro? One more thing: Why would the show go out of its way to get a star like Christina Ricci and then give her nothing to work with in the pilot?

The Coolest Part of the Early Version: The male lead in the pilot, Jonah Lotan, was certainly dashing as Captain Dean. But he's since been replaced by Mike Vogel, for whatever reason. It's a shame, as Lotan filled the uniform out well.

Last Word: Both the cast and the show itself are pretty, pretty, pretty. But Pan Am needs to decide whether it's a spy show with major consequences or a fluffy Grey's on a plane.

Here's ABC's official trailer for the series:

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Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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